Port Harcourt — The Niger Delta became the boom camp of international oil companies by virtue of the Petroleum Act of 1969, Nigeria’s contribution to socialist ideology.
Without any consultation with the people who live in the Niger Delta, the Federal Government of Nigeria mandated the IOCs to explore and exploit the vast terrain of the Niger Delta for hydrocarbon deposits for the benefit of the IOCs and all the people of Nigeria, an act of “generosity” that discounted the disposition of the real owners of the hydrocarbon deposits, the subject of ownership having been redefined by the provisions of the Petroleum Act. The lands and creeks of the Niger Delta were not occupied for the production of crude oil and gas without the protest of the people of the region. The intellectuals wrote essays and satires of the unbearable conditions they were compelled to bear; the politicians argued that it was incongruous for the federal government to appropriate the resources of a region for the benefit of all in a multi-ethnic democracy and the youths of the region, less inclined to repeat the ineffectual arguments of their elders, deployed arms and ammunition to communicate their deep displeasure at being denuded of rights and having to live under the distressing environmental conditions brought upon them by the production activities.
The protests of the Niger Delta people were loud, persistent and became the subject of international discourse. Unfortunately, some elements within the ranks of protesters undermined the gains made by years of resistance against the federal government by developing commercial interests of their own in the struggle which they put forward as mitigation, bolstering the federal government’s entrenchment in environmental and social injustice. But the worst tragedy yet to be visited on the Niger Delta is the crude and illegal refining of crude oil into petrol, diesel, and kerosene by natives of the Niger Delta. To acquire crude oil for their illegal refining the natives vandalise crude oil pipelines, causing more to be spilled into the environment than they get for their refining processes. The refining process itself being crude introduces large bodies of hydrocarbon compounds into the atmosphere of the Niger Delta with very tragic consequences to the human population of the region. Daily soot particles rain on the homes, communities, and cities of the Niger Delta. The people of the Niger Delta once privileged to breathe the sweet oxygen produced by the verdant plains and glades of their homeland, now constantly ingest carbon particles. At dawn, the lips, nostrils, and eyelids of householders are ringed with black compounds. Bronchial and cardiac diseases are on the rise in the Niger Delta; medical experts have warned that lung cancers and related ailments would afflict large numbers of people in the Niger Delta in the near future as a consequence of the illegal refining activities in the Niger Delta.
As auguries go, this latest attack on the environment and people of the Niger Delta is self-inflicted. Tired of years of only watching operatives of the IOCs and the NNPC evolving from peasants to multi-millionaires through the resources that are produced from the bowels of their land and their creeks, some natives of the Niger Delta have made the wrong calls by joining strangers partake in the excoriation of their homeland for profit. For certain, these greedy natives of the Niger Delta have become stupendously wealthy but they have achieved their new status at huge costs to the Niger Delta and her people. The fish in the rivers have died or migrated, the farms scorched and the air polluted. African societies are fast falling into ruin by activities of Africans unmindful of the consequences of their actions. By enriching themselves through activities that are capable of unleashing catastrophes of epic proportions on their own people, they hold in their cheque books, the death of their people.